The two candidates in Ventura County's hottest partisan race this June -- the 35th Assembly District Democratic primary -- each spoke to the Oxnard Democratic club last week, and as is customary in party primaries there weren't a lot of evident differences between them on most issues.
Susan Jordan and Das Williams each said the state needs to change the two-thirds vote requirement for passage of a budget, argued for more funding for education, said the state's safety net should be preserved, and suggested the Legislature should look at some targeted tax increases to balance the billions in budget cuts that lie ahead.
But there is one issue that clearly divides them: Williams supports a proposed deal that would allow the Texas-based PXP oil company to drill into state waters from its existing platform in federal waters; Jordan strongly opposes it.
The issue has divided environmentalists. The deal, negotiated by the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, is favored by some traditional offshore oil foes because they believe it would lay the foundation for the ultimate end of all drilling off the Santa Barbara County shore. That's because PXP, in a negotiated agreement with the EDC, has promised to put time limits on its operations and to dismantle one offshore platform and all of its onshore processing infrastructure after a period of years.
Williams was urged to run by the groups the EDC represents, angered that Jordan took a lead role in blocking the deal when it came before the State Lands Commission in early 2009.
Now, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ensured that the issue will still be in play at the time of the June primary. He has proposed that advance royalties from PXP will make up the entire general fund portion of funding for state parks. Unless the Lands Commission reconsiders and approves the deal, he says, there will be no money for parks.
It should set up an interesting test of the oil-drilling sentiments of Democratic primary voters on the Central Coast.